Europe 2017 – Summary, Part One

August 24 – November 15


This trip was unlike any that we have taken in the past.  Three major factors defined this difference:

  • We would not, except for a brief period, be using a car for transportation
  • We would not do any camping
  • With the exception of our time with Francois, we would not be staying with friends or family, thus relying exclusively on hotels and Airbnb.

The genesis for the journey started a few years back, prior to our six-month trip to Europe in 2014 when we became fascinated with the Camino de Santiago (the St. James Way).  We attended an introductory meeting at REI and this lit the fuse and would follow the Camino by car that year.  I would ride a portion, about 15 miles from Pamplona before realizing that given our need to continue on the schedule we had set out, we’d have to leave the Camino for another time.

Joanna Waiting for Me in 2014

Joanna Waiting for Me in 2014

As the next couple of years rolled by we attended (when we were in town) the monthly meetings of the Charlotte Camino Group, a nice collection of Camino veterans and folks planning to walk a portion or all of the Way.  Our travel goals for the next couple of years are to engage in trips that will challenge us physically, understanding that as we age our ability to do so will decline.  Thus, doing the Camino jumped to the top of the list.


A Camino Marker

Initial planning was complicated by one of the best things to happen to us, ever, that is Jessica and Kris getting married in August.  We also needed to return home by the middle of November in order to turn around and fly to Henderson, Nevada to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Mitchell’s extended family.  But this at least provided us with our beginning and ending dates and from there on we fell to making arrangements.

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party

The next step was to consider what countries, outside of Spain, to visit as well.  We could easily have spent the additional time in Spain or France, but as Joanna had not ever been to Greece, and I not since 1979, that soon became our focus.  Originally our thought was to tackle the Camino first, the logic being we’d be able to train for it as we’d need to walk in excess of ten miles per day and that Greece’s weather would still be nice later in the fall.

This got thrown out in the spring when we encountered two different constraints:

  • Average attendance on all sections of the Camino for the months we planned to hike, August, September and October were 57,680, 42,189, and 31,341, respectively in 2017.
  • The weather in Greece in late October and early November becomes quite cold and more important, ferry service and other activities between and on the islands scales back, limiting options.

So, we made what would turn out to be a very good decision and simply reversed the order of our travel, going first to Athens and then on to the Camino.  Here is the full itinerary of our completed trip:

Month Date # Hotel Destination Lodging
August 24 1 Depart
August 25 2 1 Arrive Athens Phaedra Hotel Athens
August 31 8 1 Fantasy Travel 5 Day Tour Nafplia Palace/Arty Grand/ Amalia
Sept 1 9 1 Athens Phaedra Hotel Athens
Sept 2 10 1 Ferry to Crete Ferry Cabin
Sept 3 11 1 Crete – Iraklion El Greco Hotel
Sept 4 12 1 Crete – South Coast Castello Bianco Aparthotel
Sept 6 14 Crete – Chania/Samaria Gorge Athina Beach Hotel
Sept 7 15 1 Crete – Moni Preveli/Iraklion El Greco Hotel
Sept 8 16 1 Santorini Caldera View Resort
Sept 11 19 1 Naxos Agia Anna Naxos
Sept 13 21 1 Paros Swiss Home
Sept 16 24 1 Athens Marble House
Sept 18 26 Montpellier Francois Neddam
Sept 23 31 1 St. Jean Gite Makila
Sept 24 32 1 Orisson Refuge Orisson
Sept 25 33 1 Roncesvalles Albergue de Peregrinos
Sept 26 34 1 Zubiri Pension Usoa
Sept 27 35 1 Pamplona Albergue Plaza Cathedral
Sept 28 36 1 Puente de la Reina Abergue Jakue
Sept 29 37 1 Estella Hostel Oncineda
Sept 30 38 1 Los Arcos Pension Los Arcos
Oct 1 39 1 Lagrono Santiago Apostol
Oct 2 40 1 Navarrete La Casa del Peregrino
Oct 3 41 1 Najera Puerta de Najera
Oct 4 42 1 Santo Domingo Pension Miguel
Oct 6 44 1 Burgos Abergue Municipal de Burgos
Oct 7 45 1 Castrojriz Albrgue Ultreia
Oct 8 46 1 Carrion de Los Condes Hostel Albe
Oct 9 47 1 Sahagun Viatoris
Oct 10 48 1 Leon Check in Leon
Oct 11 49 1 Astorga Albergue Siervas de Maria
Oct 12 50 1 Ponferrada Abergue Guiana
Oct 13 51 1 O Cebreiro Meson Anton
Oct 14 52 1 Sarria Matias Rooms
Oct 15 53 1 Melide A Lua do Camino
Oct 16 54 1 Santiago de Compostela Hostal La Salle
Oct 18 56 1 Astorga Hotel Gaudi
Oct 19 57 1 Leon Check In Leon
Oct 21 59 1 Burgos Hotel Cordon
Oct 23 61 1 Bilbao Pension Arias
Oct 25 63 1 Toulouse Montempo Apparthotel
Oct 31 69 Montpellier Francois Neddam
Nov 2 71 1 Arles Best Western Hotel Atrium
Nov 5 74 1 LʼIsle-sur-la-Sorgue Hotel Les Nevons
Nov 8 77 Montpellier Francois Neddam
Nov 12 81 1 Barcelona Airbnb Barcelona
Nov 15 84 Fly Home
Ready to Walk

At the Start of the Camino and Ready to Walk

Readers of this blog will also now see the trip as it played out in order, unlike that of my posts which I changed around to accommodate our Camino journey, wanting to report on it as close to live as possible.  Thus, I posted about Greece only through our initial stop in Athens before switching over to reporting on our time in Spain.  Also, as I returned to work in early December of 2017, filling in as the Director of the Auxiliaries at UNC Charlotte, we wouldn’t be traveling much during the nearly five months of full time work; instead of posting every two to three days as normal, I switched to every five days, which is why I’m not closing out this trip until now.

Niner RLT

I Got to Buy a New Bike as a Result of Working

I won’t cover air fare costs as most folks have different needs in that regards, some shopping for the cheapest they can find regardless of the complications that might follow them, others use miles or can afford to fly first class.  For us, my philosophy remains to pick an airline and remain loyal to it, as other benefits accrue that may not be directly related to the fare itself.  Also, if you are going to spend a good deal of money overall, in this case our three months ran us nearly $15,000, what difference does a hundred dollars or so make when choosing your carrier?  Also, should problems arise, you deal directly with the airline, not a third party consolidator.

Filopappou HIll

Filopappou HIll

That total amount seems shocking and yet, as I’ll get into later, for three months of travel it worked out to $175 a day for the two of us.  That is, for the average cost of staying one night in a good quality hotel (Marriott, Sheraton, etc.) in America, the two of us, lodged, ate, transported and engaged in a number of cultural activities each day

Before the trip, I created a budget to try and determine how much more the trip would cost us above and beyond our normal living expenses.  I was pleasantly surprised to determine that in reality, given our style of travel, it isn’t much more expensive than staying at home.

First, I took our normal income and expenses and came up with a net balance at the end of each month.  I then added back in the expenses we would still incur based on spending assumptions, that is how much each week we spend on groceries, eating out, gasoline for the cars and entertainment.  This left me with an amount of money that theoretically we could budget for each month on the trip.


 Sept  Oct  Nov


Days per Month


30 31 15


Net Monthly Income          1,070         1,070         1,070         1,070          4,280
Add Back                –
Food             624            624            624            624          2,496
Entertainment             908            908            908            908          3,632
Gas             200            200            200            200             800
Spending Available          2,802         2,802         2,802         2,802        11,208

I then went to work on a budget for the trip.  I based a number of my assumptions on information we had gathered at our Camino meetings as well as our own experiences in Europe in the past, particularly our last six-month outing in 2014.  Here are the values I assigned to the four major categories:

 Expense per day




 Lodging                   80                –                50
 Food                   50                35                35
 Transportation (Detail)      
 Culture                   75                20                10

I actually tried to predict our transportation needs, which turned out to be $300, $873, $0, and $400 for the months of August, September, October and November, respectively.  With these assumptions in hand, I created the budget below, which when compared with our actual expenses, shows that the trip, budgeted at $157 per day actually ran us $175.

Europe Expenses


Sept. October Nov.


 Lodging             640         1,840         1,500            880          4,860
 Food             350         1,320         1,100            690          3,460
 Transportation             300            872              –            400          1,572
 Culture             500         1,510            375            905          3,290
Total Budget Expense          1,790         5,542         2,975         2,875        13,182
Total Actual Expense          2,345         5,574         3,931         2,877        14,727
Total Variance            (555)            (32)          (956)              (2)         (1,545)
Budget Net          1,012       (2,740)          (173)            (73)         (1,974)
Actual Net             457       (2,772)       (1,129)            (75)         (3,519)
Budget Per Day             224            185              96            192             157
Actual Per Day             293            186            127            192             175

Our total budgeted expense was $13,182 with an actual of $14,727, or $1,545 dollars over budget.  For eighty-four days of travel that isn’t too bad of a variance.  And finally, overall, we had projected a deficit of $1,974 over our available spending and finished at $3,519, a negative variance of $1,545.  One could reasonably conclude then, that outside of our airfare, our three-month ‘vacation’ cost us $3,500 more than our normal living expenses, or roughly $1,200 per month or $42 a day.

Our Favorite Pursuit

Our Favorite Pursuit

In subsequent posts I’ll reflect on each country and their relative expense and how and where we spent our money.  But for now, we will wrap this one up with the observation that if you approach travel as a journey and not just a vacation, it’s not much more expensive than just staying at home.

Sanctuary of Athena

Sanctuary of Athena


Camino de Santiago:

Charlotte Camino Group:



  1. My dream is to go on Camino, and one day I will. Well done you

  2. Joanna Mann · · Reply

    That is some complicated math! Thank you for figuring it out and for a wonderful trip. Love you

  3. Thanks for putting up with me and that there math

  4. Steven Wessels · · Reply

    I had a great time visiting with you and Joanna today and have been thumbing through some of your adventures. Very well written. Perhaps you should turn it into a fiction novel.

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